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Is Khamenei Aiming To Replace The Presidntial System?

A handout picture released by the official website of the Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him (L) speaking during the swearing-in ceremony of Iranian President Hasan Rouhani (R) in Tehran on August 3, 2017

Some members of the Islamic Republic parliament are contemplating to write a letter to the Supreme Leader, ayatollah Ali Khamenei, proposing to amend the country’s constitution from a presidential to a parliamentary system of government.

“The letter will be based on the Supreme Leader’s comments made six years ago, on the subject”, the parliament’s website cited Ezzatollah Yousefian Molla, the representative of the city of Amol as saying on October 2.

While visiting Kermanshah in western Iran on, October 16, 2011, Khamenei in a speech said, "In the current situation, the political system of the country is presidential, and the president is directly elected by the people, which is a good and effective method. However, in a distant future, if it is felt that the parliamentary system can better elect the executive officials; there is no problem in changing the current format."

Immediately after Khamenei’s comments, the speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani supported the idea, “Changing the country's governmental system, from presidential to parliamentary, will help to better coordinate the activities of the three branches of the government”.

The idea of eliminating the post of president, according to Mehr News Agency, MNA, was first suggested in September 2011 by Hamidreza Katouzian, an Iranian MP.

Katouzian had said: "…political experts have been discussing ideas…that since the country is ‘blessed’ with the supervision of the Velayat Faqih [guardianship of the jurist – or the supreme leader], there is no need for a president in this country."

He had also maintained that such a system would be more effective because executive officials would answer directly to parliament. He had suggested that a prime minister could be elected by parliament to be the top executive official.

Now, comments made by Amol’s MP, Yousefian Molla have highlighted the possibility of amending the Islamic Republic Constitution and bringing in a parliamentary government system.

“If parliament wants to keep interaction with the government, it should do it with a lot of connivance. Currently, parliament observes many [unacceptable] things but, for the sake of interaction with the government, keeps mum”, Yousefian Molla asserted.

Based on the current system of government in Iran and its related rules and regulations, “the parliament’s right for an overall supervision” Yousefian Molla insists, “cannot be implemented. Implementing that right means confronting the government”.

Nevertheless, Yousefian Molla concludes, “If the government is formed inside the parliament, there would be no confrontation and if there were any shortcomings, MPs can easily raise their concerns”.

Meanwhile, Yousefian Molla insisted that his colleagues have not yet reached a final decision on the topic.

“The legislators are still undecided as to whether send a letter directly to the Supreme Leader or wait for him to deliver the idea to the president”.

Moreover, according to Yousefian Molla, changing the constitution should take place when a president is serving his second term. Thus, it would not be interpreted as a plot to overthrow the president.

Morteza Kazemian, a political analyst living in Paris, told Radio Farda that Khamenei’s original comment took place during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency, at a time of strained relations between him and Khamenei.

But he also said that tensions between presidents and the supreme leader were not related only to Ahmadinejad and have always been present. A proposal to eliminate the post of a directly elected president, will also eliminate the inherent duality of having an executive with popular mandate and a supreme leader, claiming religious legitimacy.

In the first eleven years of the Islamic Republic, the top executive position was held by the prime minister. In 1990 the Islamic republic’s constitution was amended to eliminate the prime minister's position and place the president at the top of the executive branch.

The last Islamic Republic Prime Minister, Mir Hossein Mousavi, (1981 to 1989) came out after twenty years of silence as a reformist candidate for the 2009 presidential election, challenging the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In suspicious circumstances Ahmadinejad was announced as the winner. Mousavi and millions of people protested and cried foul. This led to the creation of the Green Movement that kept Iran restless for months.

Mousavi was detained in February 2011 and has since been under house arrest.